The holidays are almost here, and for many of us, that means holiday trips! But with this year’s winter shaping up to be one for the national record books, this can mean taking your worries about the home you left behind along with you on your trip.
You do not want to wait until the last second to prepare your home to be alone. A sudden power outage can cause problems ranging from a burst water pipe to an unwelcome influx of wild lodgers that decide to stick around.
Learn what to do to protect your home from roof to foundation and below ground when you are away from home for the holidays this winter.
Alert Your Home Insurance Provider
For any trips longer than a week or two, you may need to alert your home insurance provider that you will be away from home.
Some Canadian insurers will void coverage if the home is left unoccupied for a certain period of time. Even if you are pretty sure this doesn’t apply to your trip, it is still worth the peace of mind to check.
Also ask if setting up a home watch through a friend or neighbor will keep your policy active.
Turn Down Your Thermostat (But Don’t Turn It Off)
We recently blogged about the types of scary things that can go wrong when you switch off your furnace in the middle of winter.
Suffice it to say, you really don’t want any of these things to happen to your home while you are away!
It is true that turning off your hard-working home furnace can look like a handy money-saving opportunity in the month when extra cash often comes in most handy. But in reality, there are lots of reasons you might save money by leaving your heater on while you are away.
Keeping the heat on reduces the risk of burst water pipes, mould and mildew growth, and furnace wear and tear, among other factors. Rather than turning off your heat source, simply dial it down to 16°C (55°F) – warm enough to keep pipes from freezing but cool enough not to break your budget.
Unplug Unused Appliances and Electronics
One way you can safely trim energy costs while you are away from home without risking a burst water pipe or other home-away disasters is to switch off and unplug any household appliances that won’t be needed.
Opinions vary on whether to clean out and unplug the refrigerator and freezer. If you are planning to be gone for an extended time period, this can be a wise move to avoid coming home to spoiled food and snacking pests. If you do clean out and turn off your fridge and/or freezer, be sure to prop the doors open to allow for air circulation.
Home entertainment centers, floor lights, alarm clocks, washer/dryer, computers and other gadgets can be safely switched off and unplugged. As a plus, this will also guard against power surges and home fires.
Protect Your Pipes and Hot Water Heater
To really set your mind at ease before you depart for your trip, you may want to consider winterizing your household plumbing and pipes and then powering down your hot water heater.
This is why: Let’s say you leave your furnace on at a safe but low heating temperature. But your particular furnace requires electricity to work! So your home is still vulnerable if the power goes out (unless you decide to invest in a backup generator before leaving on your trip).
The only other surefire way to guard against burst water pipes in this scenario is to winterize your home plumbing and switch off your hot water heater. This way, even if your home loses power and the heat goes off, you won’t end up in a situation where your pipes will freeze and burst.
Winterizing is easy after you’ve done it once. All you have to do is shut off the water at the main shutoff valve. Next, open up each faucet or spigot and drain them. Then shut them all off except for a single faucet. Leave that one open to keep any remaining trapped water from creating pressure and bursting a pipe.
Your hot water heater won’t be needed while you are away, so you can drain it and shut it off before you leave. If your hot water heater is newer and has a “vacation mode” setting, you can also use this instead of doing a total shut-down.
TIP: Always refill your tank water heater before powering it on again to avoid damage to the unit!
Check and Test Your Sump Pump
Sump pump failure is the number one cause of home floods during power outages. This is one of the main reasons homeowners will invest in a backup generator or, alternately, a backup sump pump system that does not require electricity to operate.
If you haven’t visited your sump pump in some time, this is a good moment to check and test its operation and consider your options for a backup power source or sump in the event the power goes out while you are away.
Schedule Your Furnace Preventative Maintenance Tune-up
There is no doubt the holidays can be one of the most hectic times of the year.
But since the majority of home fires occur during the holidays and at the start of each new year, it can be smart to set aside an hour or two to schedule your furnace safety inspection and preventative maintenance tune-up.
Enroll in our popular protection plans for a deep discount on your annual HVAC service!
Get in Touch
Are you heading out of town for the holidays but are worried about your furnace staying behind? We can help!